Even at the ripe age of 33, Reggie Nelson makes it extremely difficult to unseat him as a starter. And for the young safeties on the Oakland Raiders roster, that’s a very good thing.
“He knows how to play this game, he’s been playing for a long time,” said Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. “He has a lot of respect in the room, a lot of respect on the field and he’s been playing for a long time for a reason. He’s a guy whose experience is very important to us.”
Nelson’s ability to set an example is invaluable for a Raiders squad with a young and inexperienced safety group. As a result, players like Karl Joseph and rookies Obi Melifonwu and Shalom Luani will watch, talk and learn from Nelson. Similarly, new assistant head coach-defense John Pagano holds Nelson in very high regard.
“It’s been outstanding. I have nothing but just gravitated to a guy like that,” Pagano said. “To be able to talk football with him. Pick his brain of how he sees things, how he understands the game of football. He’s a great example for our younger players to be able to watch a guy like that and be able to see how it’s supposed to be done.”
While his long speed doesn’t pop, Nelson snagged a team-leading five interceptions last season. Plus, he deflected 12 passes to go along with 65 total tackles and two fumble recoveries.
What’s Trending: Why Tom Brady should be considered the Michael Jordan of the NFL
2017 NFL Odds: Who is the favorite to be named the NFL’s MVP in 2017
Nelson’s mind remains very sharp. Plus he’s eager and willing to learn even more. And it’s that innate desire to improve football IQ that makes it hard for any other safety to take the job from Nelson.
“He’s somebody that understands the game,” said Pagano. “It’s just good to be around a guy like that. Excellent pro. Comes to work every day with questions. Writes everything down, listens. That’s what it’s all about.”
Nelson’s unrivaled work ethic is having an indispensable ripple effect. Joseph has taken to his wily cohorts habits.
“He’s done a great job of, just like Reggie, taking notes,” said Pagano. “He wants to know everything from every detail of why we’re doing this. When they understand that, they can play faster.”
It would be wise for other defensive backs to follow Nelson’s example. It would not only make the learning curve less treacherous, but if someone were to take the starting spot from Nelson, you’ll know that player is well prepared.
Granted, Nelson’s career will slowly wind down. However, his impact will stay with this group.